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USP holds successful HLC with Australia and New Zealand

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L-R: Dr Robert Christie, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Aid Effectiveness & Advice Branch from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Mr Gordon Burns, Counsellor Regional Development Cooperation (DFAT); Ms Elisabeth Jitoko, Senior Programme Manager Regional Education (DFAT); Ms Amanda Vercoe, Acting High Commissioner New Zealand and Mr Jonathan Rowe, Counsellor Development New Zealand High Commission during the HLC at the USP Laucala campus.

A successful High Level Consultation (HLC) between The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Australia and New Zealand, its major development partners, was held at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at USP’s Laucala Campus on Tuesday 15 November 2016.

The University has HLCs with Australia and New Zealand twice a year, whereby the first meeting is held in Canberra and Wellington respectively and the second one is hosted by USP at the main Laucala Campus.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss issues of performance and risk management relating to USP’s Strategic Plan 2013-2018 implementation and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and provide Australia and New Zealand on USP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2018.

The meeting also discussed strategic regional issues in which USP is a key stakeholder, including skills development and labour mobility, ICT and human resources development, quality teacher development and support and working with other Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies.

The next steps in the development of future Australia and New Zealand partnerships with USP, including considering the value-adding and comparative advantage of traditional versus new partnerships in the tertiary education sector was also discussed.

The Australian Delegation was led by Dr Robert Christie, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Aid Effectiveness & Advice Branch from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), while Ms Amanda Vercoe, Acting High Commissioner led the delegation for New Zealand.

Australia and New Zealand delegates in discussion with USP representatives during the HLC on 15 November 2016.

In welcoming them Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP acknowledged members of both delegations saying their meeting will further strengthen what is already a very strong and productive partnership.

 “I would like to place on record our appreciation to Australia and New Zealand for the length of our partnership, both countries were involved in the formation of USP and the only two countries that provide core funding,” he stated.

“Australia and New Zealand have membership of our Council and this kind of partnership is not only special but rare for development partners as we look to the next 50 years of our work,” Professor Chandra said.

He mentioned that, “USP had a very successful HLC in Canberra with DFAT earlier on and we were able to have other meetings in Canberra including attending the Higher Education conference which was very educational and allowed a whole lot of networking to take place. I was also able to meet the new Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU)”.

“Similarly, the productive outcome of the HLC with MFAT was the way in which we have been able to advance USPNet discussions for which the New Zealand Government has already approved $300,000 for the design phase and that is all working well now. We were also able to have other meetings in Wellington including with the Executive Director of Universities New Zealand and Executive Director of Academic Quality Agency (AQA) of New Zealand,” he commented.

Professor Chandra added that USP is looking forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Dr Robert Christie said it was a privilege to be present at the discussions and thanked the University’s efforts in organizing the HLC.

“Today’s programme recognises the importance of USP’s relationships and its role in the sector and we want to encourage frank discussions over key areas of shared interest in relation to performance and risk management but also regional issues relevant to USP and partnerships and anniversary celebrations,” Dr Christie stated.

He noted that, the next eight (8) months will be important for Australia and USP as they will need to negotiate the new funding arrangement plans in June 2017.

“Since our HLC in Canberra in March, Australia has continued to develop and think about how we work in the Pacific in a way that reflects current and emerging trends and issues.

“So we continue to think about the education sector and how it shapes skills for growth in the region and how it can support labour mobility,” he added.

Furthermore, he said education remains the backbone of Australia’s thinking in ensuring quality education including teacher training and skills that will see graduates are adequately prepared for tertiary education and training for entry into the job market.

Dr Christie said Australia is excited about emerging opportunities to shape the sector to improve coherence and effectiveness.

“We need to think deeply about what is the changing marketplace for jobs and skills within the Pacific and outside including opportunities for Pacific people to access labour markets outside.

“We welcome your efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning through the institution including at regional campuses. Ultimately, we all want to see USP producing quality job-ready graduates who can respond to labour market needs and this is something we can both work on,” he stressed.

Ms Amanda Vercoe also greatly acknowledged New Zealand’s strong partnership with USP.

“The relationship is a really important one based on strong historical linkages, mutual interests in terms of human capital development and a common drive for excellence,” Ms Vercoe remarked.

New Zealand’s current funding arrangement goes through to 2018.

“It’s really important to acknowledge and celebrate USP’s many successes. This year alone, we have seen significant steps forward like increase in enrolments, international accreditations and regional campus developments,” she stated.

Ms Vercoe confirmed that New Zealand has high confidence in USP, its management and governance.  She also observed that USP faces some significant challenges, noting that New Zealand is seeking a robust dialogue about risk and the impact on the University’s performance.

“USP has set itself some ambitious goals and ambitions should be encouraged, and in this regard we support USP’s drive to excellence,” she emphasised.

Challenges faced with the achievement of certain targets by 2018 were presented to the partners including an update on achievements against the KPIs and key mitigation strategies by USP for KPIs at risk.

Other issues discussed included:

·         USP’s capacity building role and Human Resource Development Working group;

·         DFAT’s support for tertiary education in the region;

·         USP’s regional engagement through the CROP mechanism;

·         Quality Teacher Development and Support; and

·         USP’s 50th Anniversary celebration plans.

The next HLC with Australia are planned for Canberra at the end of February 2017 and with New Zealand in Wellington in April 2017. 

This news item was published on 17 Nov 2016 10:25:04 am. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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